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What is Ransomware? How can you protect yourself?

In November 2015, Forrester Research announced that hackers are now targeting medical devices, with plans to hold patients hostage.

The term “ransomware” has been one of the hottest buzzwords amongst hard-core techies. And now, we’re beginning to see this term used more often within mainstream news and social media.

Ransomware is not a new hacking technology. Instead, it’s a new hacking philosophy that aims to harm its targets – both technically and psychologically.

The classic ransomware example would be a virus that encrypts all of the files on your computer, rendering them useless. In order to decrypt your files, you need to purchase a special decryption key from a terrorist group in a foreign country… usually for tens of thousands of dollars.

There are many other variations on this concept, but they all revolve around the same theme. And it’s pretty horrific to think about.

Obviously, it’s important to protect yourself with a good, up-to-date anti-virus. But anti-virus software can only protect you from threats of the past. It can only block attacks whose characteristics are known to the developers of the software. They cannot protect you from threats of the future.

That’s why, in addition to an up-to-date antivirus application, you also need a good backup system to protect you from threats of the future.

If hackers ever figure out how to get past your security and encrypt your hard drive – as depicted in the previous example – a good backup system should allow you to restore to a previous point, from before the attack took place.

Finally, and most importantly, you need to practice good digital hygiene. Just be very careful when using your computers and electronic devices, and be aware that there are some bad people out there.

This is particularly challenging for companies since it involves lots of training and group dynamics.

If you use a good anti-virus, maintain consistent backups, and practice digital hygiene, you should be safe from most forms of ransomware.

If you’d like to help backing up all of your systems — including laptops and desktops, Windows servers, iSeries and AS/400 systems, or virtualized environments, contact Thrive to learn how we can help.